Body outline highlighting the lungs to represent COPD

Can nutrition help support COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be very distressing, but alongside conventional treatments there are some lifestyle tweaks that may help.

With World COPD Day raising awareness on 21st November, Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer, shares some tips on preventing and dealing with COPD through diet.

While many cases of COPD are caused by smoking, there are also plenty of people that suffer every winter or have one-off occurrences. COPD usually manifests itself as a chest infection (generally bronchitis), a severe cough and difficulty breathing. However, COPD may be preventable if the immune system is in good shape.


A diet that is high in sugar and alcohol is going to suppress the immune system. And while the season of good cheer is not too far away, now is the time to enjoy some really ‘clean’ eating for six weeks, to help support immunity.

Sugar in any form has no nutritional benefit so it’s worth looking closely at your diet. Sometimes writing a food diary is a good idea because it’s easy to overlook or forget what we’ve eaten over a week. It’s also important to have alcohol-free days to give the immune system and liver a break; why not try abstaining for the next six weeks?


The lungs will be inflamed if you have COPD, the tell-tale signs being coughing, breathlessness and wheezing. Certain foods such as dairy produce tend to encourage mucous production but also promote inflammation as they block the pathways of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fats.

So it’s a good idea to eliminate dairy produce from the diet; there are so many alternative milks to try such as oat, almond, soya, hazelnut and coconut. Dairy-free spreads are readily available and other oils such as olive, rapeseed and coconut are worth considering too. Also why not try hummus rather than butter on bread and in sandwiches. Don’t forget many biscuits, cakes and soups also contain dairy, so do check the labels and look out for the dairy-free options in supermarkets.

Omega-3 fats are found mainly in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines plus nuts and seeds, so include these in your diet as much as possible. However, if these foods are not your bag then it’s important to take a fish oil supplement or vegetarian oil equivalent.

Having lots of ‘green’ foods such as leafy vegetables can help to moderate inflammation – opting for a ‘green’ juice every morning is a good way to go.


While there’s no formal scientific research, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that cooking up a traditional chicken broth is beneficial. Using chicken bones can help fight infections and reduce inflammation. Positive effects have been found by the increase in white blood cells, which are a key part of the immune system.

Boil up a whole chicken with onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery and parsley; use some of the meat but add rice noodles and have two or three bowls a day until the infection has passed. The broth will also help reduce mucous and calm the sinuses.

To find out more about World COPD Day visit the British Lung Foundation Website.


1 comment